Aspen ski-shop owner prepares for sister store
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – A ski-shop space shuffle of sorts is under way in downtown Aspen.
The closure of longtime ski shop Pomeroy Sports at the corner of South Hunter Street and East Durant Avenue after the current ski season – owner Tom Anderson is retiring – has triggered new leasing activity. Performance Ski, on Durant adjacent to Pomeroy Sports, will move into that space. Meanwhile, Bill Miller, of nearby Hamilton Sports in the Ajax Mountain Building on Durant Avenue, plans to open a sister location in the Performance Ski spot.
Miller co-founded Hamilton Sports 16 years ago with speed skier Jeff Hamilton, a California native. Five years later, Hamilton left the business, but Miller retained the Hamilton name.
The branch location will be called Miller Sports, and at 2,400 square feet and two stories, it’s larger than the space Hamilton Sports occupies.
Miller, 57, a native of Westchester County, N.Y., said he’s excited about the expansion and talked about his many years in business in Aspen.
“Sixteen years in Aspen’s not too bad,” he said. “It’s a great town to own a ski shop in.”
Miller used to be a speed skier, as well, but an injury in 1995 ended that career.
“Jeff, at the time, was the world’s fastest skier. He set a world record in 1995 as the first guy to break 150 mph. That same year, I took a really bad fall, and it essentially ended my speed-skiing days. I was 39 when I fell, and it hurt,” Miller said, laughing.
Hamilton was still active in the sport when he and Miller opened Hamilton Sports in October 1997.
“One of the reasons we have survived is great returning clientele year after year,” Miller said of his business. “It’s really a lot of fun to see the same faces coming back. There’s a lot of hugs; it’s really a lot of fun.”
Miller said when the Hunter location became available, he couldn’t pass it up. He said it is one of the top three locations in downtown Aspen for a ski shop.
The new location, like the current one, will offer sales and rentals of high-end skis by Austrian manufacturers Kastle and Blizzard. Miller said he’s a bit of a traditionalist and won’t be getting involved in snowboarding equipment. He doesn’t sell boots, describing that aspect of the business as high-maintenance. He does rent them, though.
His lease begins Nov. 1, and his plan calls for a mid-November opening. He anticipates hiring another one or two people; Hamilton Sports employs eight. The operating systems of the two stores will be nearly identical, allowing him to send Hamilton employees over to the new shop on an as-needed basis.
Miller’s also planning to expand his offerings of fashion skiwear.
His father, an executive at CBS in New York many decades ago, got him interested in skiing at an early age by taking him on trips to Vermont. Both of his parents died recently.
He noted that just as his parents sparked his involvement in skiing, he passed on the tradition. His enterprise has family connections: His nephew, Greg Ernst, manages Hamilton Sports.
“He’s doing a fantastic job,” Miller said. “It’s nice to keep it in the family.”
Miller said his many years in business in Aspen have been mostly positive. The 2008-09 ski season was hampered by the national and local recession. The following two seasons were a success because of above-average snowfall.
Then came the 2011-12 season and its poor snowfall total. This year has been a little better but still lackluster compared with normal conditions.
“In the last two years, we just haven’t seen the same level of business that we get during good snow years,” Miller said. “I don’t remember ever struggling until last season.”
Still, he’s got a good feeling about the expansion and believes Mother Nature will cooperate.
“I always look at it optimistically,” he said. “When you’re in the ski-shop business, you have to.”